Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Book Review - My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World


Sonia Sotomayor

Category: Nonfiction: Memoirs: Coming-of-age & Childhood; Hispanic-American

Synopsis: Supreme Court justice Sotomayor recounts her life from childhood until her nomination to the federal court.

Date finished: 22 May 2013

Rating: ****½

I very much enjoyed this book. I’d been seeing it for months on Amazon, always at the top of the lists, and I finally bought it to give it a try. I was not disappointed. I was concerned that it might be too detached and academic to be enjoyable, but I found Sotomayor an engaging and completely accessible storyteller.

I don’t want to talk about the book’s contents too much here, for fear of spoiling it for potential readers. I will say that my favorite part of the book—indeed, a good portion of the book—is about Sotomayor’s early years as a Puerto Rican girl in the Bronx. I enjoyed this part the most. The memories were vivid and pulled you in. Once she started her career as a lawyer, my fascination cooled a bit.

One of her strengths as a woman is her analytical nature. I found it fascinating to read how this nature was there from the time she was very young, and how it invariably helped her in her legal career. She talks candidly about her self-taught independence as a blessing and a curse. I was gratified to see her touch on personal issues such as being a single woman, not having raised children, and forgiving her mother and forging a stronger relationship with her.

I was tickled when she would stumble upon accolades, graciously accept them, and then have to ask or research what they meant. For instance, she and her family seemed to not understand the prestige of being accepted to Princeton. Later, she would have to be told to not ignore that Phi Beta Kappa letter in her trash can, and upon graduation she had to look up what summa cum laude meant.

It was interesting to read her take on affirmative action (what helped her get into Princeton and later Yale Law School). I’m still not entirely sure how I feel about affirmative action in higher education. Certainly, in my years of attending and working at a university, I’ve seen the system work as nothing more than a quota system, admitting less qualified minority students who flounder under the load of college academics. On the other hand, you have Sotomayor’s example of a student who thrived only because she was given the chance to. Her success is certainly what proponents of affirmative action hope to see realized, but it’s not always the case.

The book takes us only to the point of becoming a federal court judge. It does not discuss her nomination or present tenure as a Supreme Court justice. And rest assured, it does not deal with any liberal leanings or prejudices.

When asked what her legacy will be, she answers: “My highest aspiration for my work on the Court is to grow in understanding beyond what I can foresee, beyond any borders visible from this vantage.”

I look forward to a second book someday, that will bring us up through her judicial career.

Would you recommend this to a friend?
Yes, wholeheartedly.

You might also enjoy:
Justice Clarence Thomas’s MyGrandfather’s Son and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s Extraordinary Ordinary People.

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